By Zachary Stieber
Social media website Parler said that its previously unknown investor is billionaire Rebekah Mercer, after speculation from some activists that the site was linked to Russia.
In a statement, Parler said Mercer is backing the site.
“Rebekah Mercer is a great friend, an American patriot, and most importantly committed to the Parler vision of neutrality and data privacy. We are grateful for her support since 2018, and her early faith in the founders has enabled us to reach these heights,” CEO John Matze said in the statement.
Mercer said she started Parler with Matze “to provide a neutral platform for free speech, as our founders intended, and also to create a social media environment that would protect data privacy.”
“Benjamin Franklin warned us: ‘Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.’ The ever increasing tyranny and hubris of our tech overlords demands that someone lead the fight against data mining, and for the protection of free speech online. That someone is Parler, a beacon to all who value their liberty, free speech, and personal privacy,” she said.
Mercer, 46, is the daughter of hedge-fund manager Robert Mercer. The Mercer family has donated to many conservative companies and causes over the years.
Mercer “is widely known for her dedication to philanthropy and upholding American values,” the company said.
The formerly unknown backing of Parler, which is partially owned by conservative radio host Dan Bongino, was subject to rampant speculation.
Dave Troy, co-curator of Tedx MidAtlantic and self-described disinformation specialist, claimed that the site was linked to Russia because Matze is married to a Russian national.
A screengrab that appeared to be from Fox News showing a chyron about Parler being backed by left-wing billionaire George Soros also circulated on social media. A Fox News spokeswoman confirmed to The Epoch Times that the screengrab was fake.
Parler bills itself as a free-speech social media platform. According to its community guidelines, Parler acts against illegal content such as child pornography but won’t remove content or accounts “on the basis of the opinion expressed within the content at issue.”
“Parler’s policies are, to use a well-known concept in First Amendment law, viewpoint-neutral,” the guidelines state.
The number of accounts skyrocketed to 10 million in recent days from about 4.5 million. Matze said the reason is that people don’t trust big technology companies like Facebook and Twitter amid an escalation in censorship on those platforms.
“They’re really overreaching to an extent that’s scary, and people are really realizing this. They’re waking up and saying, ‘We’ve got to do something about it,’” Matze told the Washington Examiner’s “Newsmakers.”